Accidental Pharisees are people like you and me who really have a desire to honor God, want to share the good news of Christ with the world, but run the risk of becoming overzealous in their faith putting a guilt trip on people.
In our desire to follow God and live a holy life, we can become so zealous that we run the risk of elevating ourselves, looking down on those who aren’t following as diligently a path as we are.
We tend to equate the Pharisees in the bible with being the bad guys who are puffed up with their own righteousness and are arrogant and contemptuous of others. Larry Osborne suggests that we too can become so zealous that we can become a full-fledged Pharisee.
In Jesus time, the Pharisees were revered. To be a Pharisee was a “badge of honor”, a compliment; excelling in everything. They were zealous for God, committed to their belief, theologically astute and knew the scriptures inside and out. They obeyed all the laws and created more to cover any obscure commands they might have missed. They had a spiritual commitment second to none. So isn’t such a devotion and dedication to God’s laws a good thing? If it isn’t, when does it become a hindrance to the gospel?
Jesus used the example of the Pharisees in his Sermon on the Mount to illustrate the difference between trying to earn your way to heaven and accepting the free gift of grace and redemption through God. The Apostle Paul himself was a zealot committed to killing the early Christians until Jesus met him on the road and changed his life forever.
Why is this important for us today? The Pharisees were very powerful. Becoming an accidental Pharisee can be dangerous for us and for others. According to Larry Osborne, if we simply condemn the Pharisees, we can easily become one of them.
This was a book I read some time ago and found it very enlightening. Larry Osborne describes some of the common traps that we as Christians face and helps us to become aware of not turning our faith into a new form of legalism. His book helps us understand how easy it is to fall into the trap of “pride, exclusivity, legalism and hypocrisy.” Sharing the gospel of Christ requires love and humility.
The bible study group I currently attend is studying Paul’s book to the Romans – a rich book that speaks to law and grace. Romans 7 and 8 clearly distinguish how we need the law but cannot be saved by it or earn our salvation through it. It is a gift from a loving and awesome God. While the law is necessary to guide us, following the law does not earn our salvation.
I hope you have the opportunity to read Accidental Pharisee and enjoy it as much as I did. It is available in both book form and kindle.